How a retired volunteer is giving the art world a lift

Portrait of a volunteer

Retirement has given Peter Doyle CPA the opportunity to share a lifetime of skills and experience with a range of not-for-profit organisations.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) board member Peter Doyle is the first to admit he’s no art expert. But what he does know is how to manage an organisation’s finances after nearly three decades at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, where he retired as director and company secretary more than a decade ago.

“It’s the old story. I know what I like, but as far as being creative in that respect, I wouldn’t presume to tell the curator what I thought they should do. They stick to the art and I stick to the money,” says Doyle, who chairs the finance committee of the Melbourne-based ACCA.

When he first retired, Doyle was keen to keep his hand in the workforce. “I wanted to do some other work – not paid work but work for a not-for-profit,” he says.

“Discovery is one of the wonderful things of life – it just keeps you going.” 

“A contact I had with Ernst & Young put me in touch with the then chairman of ACCA, and they invited me to join the board.”

The opportunity aligned nicely with a passion that began when Doyle studied music history at university. “My wife and I have always loved the arts,” he says.

About six years ago, a former colleague invited Doyle to take on another voluntary role as director and company secretary of Brainwave, a charity that supports children with neurological conditions and their families.

Doyle is enjoying the opportunity to contribute his skills to both organisations, as well as a third role as a member of the “sounding board” – a support group – for the Flinders Quartet in Melbourne.

“I get a thrill out of it, because I’m using skills that I’ve learned over the years; it keeps me interested in things, and there’s contact with people who are young,” he says.

“I’ve had my life sort of, and I’m still enjoying it, but they are making their way in the world and it’s just lovely to be there to give advice or to help them.”

Born and educated in Sydney, Doyle moved to Melbourne In the 1970s – supposedly for a short stint – to help a shipping company develop a reporting system to support their move to containerisation.

“The plan was to go back to Sydney, but that never happened,” he says. “Then I changed jobs and went to Clemenger. I was there until 2002, when I retired.”

Doyle and his wife Leila raised three daughters and now have seven grandchildren. One of their daughters, who has three children, lives in England, so that means regular sojourns in the northern hemisphere for the couple.

“We rent a little cottage in Buckinghamshire near our daughter’s place and we rocket around,” he says.

“Sometimes we go up to Scotland for a few days, and last year we went up to the Lakes District, where we promised ourselves we’d go many years ago.”

In between these travels, they fit in visits to castles and galleries and try to attend the Venice Biennale art exhibition whenever they can.

“There is always something to learn and something to discover,” says Doyle. “Discovery is one of the wonderful things of life – it just keeps you going.”

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is Melbourne’s foremost contemporary art space and the only major gallery in Australia focused on commissioning rather than collecting. The centre regularly showcases significant artwork by living artists from around the world.

Located in Melbourne’s Southbank precinct, the ACCA building has interiors that move and transform to accommodate different art shows.


Brainwave was started more than 20 years ago by Josephine Nicholls, whose eldest son Nicholas was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was six years old.

Josephine has made it her life’s work to support children living with such a condition.

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November 2015
November 2015

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